House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

Noon

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, it is worthwhile to note that the government has once again moved time allocation on a very important bill.

This is a budget bill. It is one of those bizarre ominous bills in which the government has made the determination to take what I believe is a cowardly act, bringing into this bill legislation that should have been standing on its own. I am referring to the environmental legislation.

What the government is doing, through the back door and by putting in time allocations, is undemocratic. Quite frankly, it is just the wrong direction for the government to be moving in with regard to the environment. The legislation is devastating to our environment.

Does the member agree with Liberals that the environmental portion of this ominous bill should have been stand-alone legislation? The government is wrong to bring it in through the back door in this ominous bill. Does the member agree?

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I do not have to agree with just the Liberals, I am agreeing with over 100 of my colleagues who very demonstrably made this case in the House.

I participated in the processes to develop the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. I participated in the development of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. All of those processes were open, transparent and participatory. They occurred over many years.

Previously, under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, there was an advisory body consisting of industry, the provinces, the federal government and the public, to advise on proper implementation of this bill and to consider everyone's interest. In one full blow, inappropriately through a budget bill, with no opportunity for discourse or dialogue with the Canadian public, we have this absolutely reprehensible move by the government. I know that Canadians will chastise it for this. It is incumbent on the government to separate this bill and to open it up for proper review and discussion by Canadians.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

Noon

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am standing here today to correct some misinformation that is being perpetuated by not only this member but a number of members of the House of Commons with regard to the length of debate, et cetera.

I just heard my Liberal colleague from Winnipeg North make what sounded like a hypocritical statement about time allocation. In my hand I have the past 10 years of time that was dedicated to budgets. In the last 10 years, not a single other budget bill was debated longer than the 7 days we are about to do, the 28.5 hours we are about to do, in this House. Not a single other one.

Let me read for the member, and I would like to ask her to reflect on this because I am going to ask her a question about it: 1992, 11.2 hours, 4 days; 1996, 16.9 hours, 5 days; 2004, 10.7 hours, 3 days of debate; 2005 was the longest one at 21.8 hours or 7 days by the Liberals; and ours is 7 days, 28.5 hours.

Is the member prepared to apologize for the misleading information she has provided?

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time in two days that I have heard this comparison about a decade. I will remind the hon. member her government is responsible for six years of those. If time has been given short shrift, it is the Conservatives' responsibility. We can always compare to the worst-case scenario.

The point that other members in this House and I are making is it is not simply the length of the debate of a budget bill but the short-circuiting of discussion of significant policy matters, generally speaking, by the public of Canada who have a right to come forward and tell us their views on the many extraneous public policy issues in this bill. It is absolutely a disgrace.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of the assault on democracy, one could not even read this bill in 28.5 hours. The bill is enormous. It touches on more than just how much money we are going to tax Canadians, which is what a budget is about. It touches on the environment, fisheries, pensions and so many things that are not supposed to be part of a budget, but they are.

I note the comments by my colleague for Winnipeg North about this being an “ominous” bill. I think that was a slip of the tongue as it is an omnibus bill, but I also think it is an ominous bill for Canadians. The bill is missing some things. There is nothing here for the burgeoning demand for public transit in this country. There is a huge infrastructure deficit, but the bill is completely silent on whether the government is going to attend to the problem.

On immigration, my colleague for York Centre suggested that we are just getting rid of the people who are on the faint hope list. However, this has nothing to do with getting rid of people on a faint hope list. This has to do with people who have discovered that the government gives them faint hope because it changed the rules after their application was in. After a couple of years, it decided to cut them off the list and give them some of their money back. These people have spent countless sums on legal fees, tests, police checks, et cetera, that they will never get back. The Conservative government is completely uncaring about the huge devastation it is causing those would-be immigrants from other countries by leaving them on a list for 10 years and then cutting them off.

The bill has nothing on the huge increase in fuel prices in my riding in the past few weeks and months. I hear about this daily. Ordinary Canadians are worried that they will not be able to afford to get to work and that seniors will not be able to afford to get to the doctor. Seniors' pensions do not go up by the amount that fuel prices have gone up in the last little while. The government is completely silent on it.

The government suggests that the bill is about jobs. Well, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, whose reports the Conservatives do not like, the bill would actually cost the economy 43,000 jobs. That is a lot of jobs. The Conservatives' oft-touted figure of how many jobs they have created since the recession ignores the fact that they have been in government for much longer and the number of people looking for work has gone up. The percentage of people in the workforce who cannot find a job has gone up significantly since the Conservative government took office. It is all well and good to say that there was a recession and we are back, but we have done nothing about creating the structures in this country to create full employment. This budget does nothing more about it.

On pensions, the Conservatives talk about how there is a crisis. There is no crisis. In fact, the crisis they claim is because baby boomers are retiring. However, their solution exempts most baby boomers from the solution as baby boomers would continue to get the full OAS and GIS. It is the people who come after the baby boomers who are going to be shortchanged. They will be penalized doubly: they would have to pay for the baby boomers because the government says it is a crisis, but they would get nothing in return.

Canadians are going to wake up and smell the coffee at some point, and realize that the Conservative government has got it wrong and there is not a crisis. There may be crises in other countries that spend significantly greater amounts of their budgets on pensions, but not here in Canada where we spend a small fraction of what is spent in other countries on basic OAS.

What I really want to tackle the government on, and I should not be doing this in the context of a budget bill but it is in there, is the elimination of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the replacement of it with the Canadian environmental evisceration act. The decision by the government to incorporate this in a budget bill has nothing to do with budget, it has nothing to do with spending of money. However, the government's suggestion that it is stronger is absolutely wrong, and I will give some examples.

The definition of an environmental effect in this budget is significantly different from the definition in the old act. The old act suggested the environment is land, water, air, et cetera, and that has not changed, but the environmental effect is the effect of any change on such things as wildlife, critical habitat, individuals, health and socio-economic conditions of human beings, physical and cultural heritage, and the current use of land and resources. That is not in the new bill. The new bill talks about environmental effects as being: fish, as defined in section 2 of the Fisheries Act, which is changing; aquatic species, as defined in section 2 of the Species at Risk Act; migratory birds, as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Migratory Birds Convention Act; and any other component of the environment that is set out in Schedule 2.

I will read Schedule 2. That is a moment of silence for the environment because Schedule 2 is empty. There is nothing there.

The government suggests that it would protect the health and environment of human beings. It is not in this bill. It has left it out. The minister can make regulations under Schedule 2, but he can also change them. He can also decide not to have any regulations. It is very clear that the old act was very specific. It protected the environment, not just of fish, birds and the air but of human beings, their culture, heritage and dwellings. That is missing from this bill. It does not go unnoticed by this side of the House that it is a reduction in the protections that would be available to the environment by the government.

There is another big change in this act. The old act talked about needing environmental assessments any time there were projects, which included any physical work, proposed construction, operation, modification, decommissioning, abandonment, undertaking and proposed physical activity. There is a good definition of what a project is. The new act talks only about designated projects. The minister would get to decide what a designated project is. He would make regulations under section 84 for the definition of a designated project. Therefore, not everything that we have come to expect would be assessed. That is gone. The minister would get to decide which things will be environmentally assessed. As a result of that discretion being left to the minister, based on the current minister, woe betide the environment. That is not very helpful to the environment, abandonment of what can go on.

I do not have enough time to go into the machinations of what this bill would do in many other areas. Unfortunately, I will not have time to do that in part because time allocation has been applied by the government, which, with its majority, is determined to cut off debate. That debate would be cut off before I could even read all of the portions of this bill that would affect Canadians in an adverse way.

We now know, and it does not take much reading to discover, that the government's agenda is about helping its friends in the oil patch. In particular, with the definition of “designated project”, I am willing to bet there will be a whole bunch of things that will not need an environmental assessment any longer. When those environmental assessments happen, the government has said that they will be streamlined. They will take two years, no more and no less. If a project takes longer to study it, if it is that big, if it crosses all of Canada and takes longer, should we not do it right rather than rushing to do it wrong and harming the environment?

The definition of “sustainable development” is still the definition that existed in the previous act. However, it is not going to be possible to have sustainable development under this act if the government, as we suspect, abandons its responsibility to study many of the projects that are now being studied and if it abandons its responsibility to study those elements of the environment that are important to human beings and not to just fish, birds and other wildlife.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, West Coast Environmental Law says:

For decades, Canadians have depended on the federal government to safeguard our families and nature from pollution, toxic contamination and other environmental problems through a safety net of environmental laws. Today's budget would cut up this environmental safety net...

It further states:

A robust, sustainable economy depends on a healthy environment. The multi-billion dollar clean up costs from the Exxon Valdez and the Gulf oil spill remind us that it is citizens who pay the price when things go wrong.

Does the hon. member think that the environmental sections of this bill should be hived off, as the Liberals have called for, and sent to committee for public scrutiny in a clause-by-clause study?

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP as well has determined that this portion of the bill—and perhaps several other portions, but this portion in particular, which deals with the environmental assessment changes—has nothing to do with budgets. It has nothing to do with whether we tax people or whether we give people back their money. It has to do with protecting the environment, and it ought to be studied in much greater depth and by the right parts of the government, meaning by the environment committee and the environment departments rather than by the finance department. It has nothing to do with finance and everything to do with the environment, and yes, it ought to be hived off.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member. As usual, his analyses and comments are excellent.

This new budget basically ignores sustainable development, or the co-operation among various rural communities throughout Canada and the development of economic projects and drivers that will create jobs.

How is it that we have only six or seven days to debate a budget that will have an unbelievable influence and unacceptable impact on many regional economies? Why are the Conservatives hiding things throughout this 425-page budget that will only benefit big business?

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, these changes and the speed being proposed for their adoption are at the nub of what is going on here, particularly with the environmental issues. May 14 is now the deadline. Why is May 14 the deadline? There must be a project in the works that needs this kind of non-environmental assessment and that cannot begin until the government has passed this bill. My suspicion is that there is some other agenda that we have not yet heard about. Is that not the way that the government has behaved so far?

We did not hear about the cuts to the OAS until somebody in Davos decided to leak the information. We did not hear about the evisceration of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act until we saw it in the budget. This certainly was not campaigned on by the government, yet here we are, so I suspect we have more surprises in store from the Conservatives and their hidden agendas.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the reprehensible downgrading of environmental law, by following this procedure of introducing changes to the environmental assessment and fisheries laws through the budget, the government has actually violated the side agreement to NAFTA, which obligates Canada to provide advance notice and opportunity to comment on any proposed change to environmental law and policy.

I wonder if the member could speak to not just the substance of it, but to the government's violation of its international commitments as well.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it certainly appears to me and to most casual readers to be a violation of NAFTA. However, will we be accused of being anti-Canadian if we ask our friends in Washington to suggest that the government should have given notice to both Washington and Mexico, the partners in NAFTA, that it was about to downgrade its environmental protection system? There certainly should be some involvement by our partners in all of our so-called free trade agreements, some of which we actually did support.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2012 / 12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Kerr West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint Boniface.

Recently our government delivered the economic action plan for 2012. This budget is one that would support jobs for Canadians, grow our economy, reduce red tape and increase efficiencies across government. This budget is a moderate approach to returning to balanced budgets in the medium term while making key investments in business and innovation. This is a budget Canadians can count on. There are many items in the budget that would help Canadians find jobs and save money.

While we are focused on growing the economy and putting more Canadians back to work, the opposition is focused on negativity, fearmongering and killing Canadian jobs.

In my remarks, I will focus on some key areas of the budget and highlight why the changes we are making would be good for Canadians' future.

A few things I would like to focus on are the changes to the old age security, reducing red tape in our project review processes and improving efficiencies at Veterans Affairs.

With regard to OAS, the opposition is trying to scare our seniors into thinking that we are taking away their benefits. That could not be further off the mark. What we are doing is ensuring that benefits remain for the long term, because we know that Canadian seniors need these benefits.

Let us talk about the changes to OAS. OAS is a government program, funded through general revenue, that if left in its current state will become unsustainable. What we are doing is introducing a reasonable plan that would be phased in over a long period of time and that would ensure that these benefits our seniors need remain far in the future.

We are making OAS more accessible to seniors by providing automatic enrolment instead of having them go through an application process. We are also introducing the option of deferring the beginning of OAS benefits, an option that would allow more seniors the choice for what is right in their situation.

Our decision to make changes to OAS is not an easy one, but it is the right one, and the opposition knows it.

For our most vulnerable seniors, we have created a GIS top-up. In budget 2011, we announced additional annual benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples for more than 680,000 low-income seniors.

We have also moved to reduce taxes for our seniors. In 2012, a single senior could earn at least $19,542, and a senior couple $39,084, before paying federal income tax. As a result of our actions since 2006, 380,000 seniors have been removed from federal tax rolls.

Through these measures, we are taking the tax burden off many seniors so that they can keep more of their savings.

We will continue to make responsible decisions that ensure Canadian seniors are receiving the benefits they need in retirement.

On environmental and project review, the opposition has spoken out against our plan to streamline the process for project reviews. Somehow it has come up with the notion that duplication, red tape and barriers to economic development are good things for Canada. The difference between our government and the opposition is that we actually support Canadian jobs and growth in the economy. What we are doing is making sure that projects that need more oversight get it in a timely manner; for smaller projects that have little impact on the environment, we are making sure they are dealt with through a quicker process, as they need less scrutiny.

What we have now is more duplication, a long and unclear review process for both large projects that require more assessment resources and smaller projects that are minimal environmental risks.

Projects in the queue have to go through multiple steps and multiple levels of government approval processes that are not clearly defined, and they are not given an estimated timeline. In some cases the federal review process is only begun years after an approval at a provincial level or from another federal agency. The result is wasted time, effort and money.

While projects are going through a complicated review process, it costs the business, it costs the economy and ultimately it could mean new jobs are not realized.

While large projects do need close review, many smaller projects, such replacing an existing culvert or constructing a new pumping house for a maple syrup plant, do not need the same level of scrutiny. These smaller projects, in the current review system, are taking up much of the resources that could alleviate the length of time it takes for a larger project to be reviewed.

If the opposition had its way, it would ensure that all reviews would go as slowly as possible, thus wasting time and effort on projects that do not need that kind of survey.

The opposition would effectively kill jobs in sectors where there is huge potential for economic growth, such as the natural resource, oil and gas sectors. A clear example of the NDP's intentions is the fact that it actually sent representatives to Washington at taxpayers' expense to oppose the Keystone pipeline, a project that will create thousands of jobs in North America.

The economic action plan will commit to bringing forward legislation to achieve the goal of “one project, one review”; make new investments to improve regulatory reviews; streamline the review process for major economic projects; support consultation with aboriginal peoples; strengthen pipeline and marine safety; continue to support the major projects management office initiative, which has succeeded in shortening and streamlining reviews and improving accountability; and ensure the safety and security of Canadians and the environment as energy resources are developed.

The opposition would put Canadians out of jobs. We want to make sure Canadians have work for generations to come.

With regard to Veterans Affairs, the opposition has been trying to convince our veterans for months that our government is slashing the budget for Veterans Affairs. As we can clearly see, that is just not the case. The opposition kept telling our veterans that benefits were being cut. The total reduction to the Department of Veterans Affairs is only 1.1% in an effort to reduce red tape and bureaucratic barriers. This will make for easier access to benefits and help ensure our veterans receive the care and support they deserve.

I will take this opportunity to again point out that while opposition members have criticized the government on veterans, not once have they voted in favour of the measures to increase veterans' benefits.

The reality is that budget 2012 strongly supports veterans and their families. We have promised to maintain benefits for our veterans and we are definitely following through on that promise.

I have elaborated on a few of the important measures brought in by action plan 2012. This budget supports growth and jobs for Canadians. It acknowledges the reality that we are working with a fragile global economy; this budget proves, though, that Canada remains a leader in fiscal management, as we are making responsible reductions to balance the budget while growing our economy and creating jobs.

I encourage all Canadians to go online and visit or call their MPs' offices to learn more about economic action plan 2012. With the plan that is in front of us, we have the sound fiscal management to ensure growth and prosperity well into the future.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to refer to one issue here. Within the cuts that have taken place, Parks Canada has been hammered viciously by the government.

We saw the government talk with great enthusiasm about all of the great work it did with respect to increasing the size of the national parks in the Northwest Territories. Part of what was supposed to happen was a commitment to the people of the Northwest Territories that there would be some economic return, that these parks would be well managed and that they would increase tourism, but what do we see in the budget? We see huge cuts directly to national parks, cuts that will cause our economy not to get a boost from tourism. Where is the thinking there? On the one hand, the Conservatives love to take the credit for expanding national parks; on the other hand, they are slashing the budgets for these parks so that they cannot do the things they are supposed to do with that increased size.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Kerr West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, certainly the government is moving a number of areas of efficiencies to try to make government more economic and more compact, and the delivery is certainly felt at the final end. In other words, the idea is to grow the economy and encourage the private sector to invest in our economy. We feel that as a result of eliminating the deficit and keeping taxes very low, the opportunities in all the communities—in my rural community and in the member's rural community—will continue to grow through the years. Once the stability has taken effect, we are very confident that we will see growth and opportunity for Canadians across the country.

SECOND READING
Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, in Bill C-38, the number of changes to virtually every environmental law ever passed in this country is literally shocking to anyone who has practised environmental law. The hon. member will remember me from when he was Minister of Environment in Nova Scotia all those years ago and approved Agent Orange spraying, driving my group to court at the time. It is all water under the bridge, so I have nothing but goodwill toward the hon. member for West Nova.

However, I ask the member now if he has reviewed section 5 of the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act? Can he explain to Canadians how federal environmental reviews will now be limited to fish and migratory birds only?